When I was very young I played checkers with my grandfather, (I called him Papa). As I grew older, I noticed that the other students were playing a different game, Chess on the same checkerboard. This was a much more complicated game filled with many different pieces with unfamiliar shapes. They were in two colors sometimes white and black, with many small pieces (pawns) that looked like the pieces in the game “Sorry” (of which I had also played with my Papa). In additional there were a few larger pieces, some that looked like horses and two of each color with a cross on the top. I heard the boys say “I can checkmate in two moves! I curiously watched as my classmates in an odd fashion moved the pieces. The horse could only move in the strange J pattern, the tall pointing pieces could only move on a diagonal the small pieces could only move one space at a time. Later I learned that the “horse” was known as a Knight, and the “pointy” piece was the Bishop the piece with the cross was known as a King and of course, there was a Queen and Castle for each side. I knew about Kings from checkers, but this game was much harder to learn for a seven year old.
As I advanced in grade school and later high school, I learned that chess was emblematic of the world, and of larger conflicts… wars. We studied European History in 8th grade as part of World History. The text was rather large, like the telephone book I had once sat on for dinnertime. I learned about the influence of the church and fealty of the knights. There was a reason the Bishop was placed so close to the Royal Family on the board. The Bishop represented the church. For as long as history can recall, kings and queens claimed divine title to emphasize their absolute control over all, especially the pawns, who represented all of us. To strengthen their position that God had granted them the power to rule over the people, members of royalty worked closely with the Church to fashion rules that decided the fate of their subjects. Thus, the church had a great influence on where and when wars would be fought.
As the end of the eighteenth century, a group of people declared themselves Americans free from the rule of the king! However, these Americans were never free from the influence of the church in our government. For many this was and is a highly desirable. The Bible is their connection to understand God’s will. When I was a child, my understanding of the bible was and still is that we (those of us on this Earth) are all God’s children. Yet at times church leaders used the text, chapter and verse to justify oppressing those deemed different.
Rallies from behind a few pulpit’s allowed such abominations as slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and anti-Semitism in the name of God. A few preachers took this to the extreme. They even terrorized people, while wearing the hooded white robes of hatred. Doubt me, read about Edgar Ray Killen a preacher who helped mastermind the murder of three young men in 1964. These young men Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner’s only transgression was they were assisting with helping African Americans by registering voters.
It has been decades since Jim Crow and segregation were ruled unconstitutional. Churches have toned down their rhetoric based on skin color. Today the focus is on controlling behavior of people. Some of whom are not even in the church, and demanding absolute adherence to church doctrine. Not all churches are this controlling. Nevertheless lately, we are hearing more of those who would remove, ignore, harass, or ridicule members who voted for a particular candidate. To the clergy these candidates do not represent the word of God thus; those who vote for such people have sinned against God. Condemnation has been heaped on people based on voting? Last I looked we lived in the Land of the Free. Freedom has been granted for us to choose leaders who represent our needs and concerns, not those of the church. It behooves us to know our history, to paraphrase Santayana those who forget the past are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
The Declaration of Independence stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Today the more I see and hear… I realize that we are being played like the pawns on the chessboard that could only move one-step at a time.